March 20th, 2005

Yellow head

The Big Move

So the day finally came. The last two wards moved out of the old hospital on Friday and into the brand new, purpose-built psychiatric hospital, a mere half mile away behind the general hospital. The other wards and departments had already made the trip over the last week, leaving the more than a century old hospital, more and more diminished. The move went more smoothly than we could have hoped for, with only a few minor mishaps, such as leaving the dinner trolleys and serving utensils (brought by the removers later on, who worked like heroes throughout).

As many patients as could be were sent on leave for the duration of the move, but it still left quite a few on the two wards. Most of the patients were great. There was only one management problem: a drug and alcohol user who disappeared and went to the pub, arriving at the new hospital smashed out of his head, and who remained something of a pain for the rest of the day.

It was a long day for all the staff, quite bewildering and tiring. Everything had to be unpacked at the other end. All the beds had to be remade (once they'd arrived), and of course throughout, the patients had to be kept fed, happy and not left feeling that they were being forgotten. Fortunately we had loads of staff on, including all the placed students. However, for us all, the twelve-hour shift seemed endless. The new wards are much bigger than the old ones, so there's a lot more walking involved. We were all complaining that our feet were hurting by the end of the shift.

The sadness of leaving the old hospital, where many of the older staff had worked for their entire working lives, was more than made up for by the brand new unit, which is wonderfully light and spacious. Gone are the dorms. Every patient has their own room with connecting toilet/bathroom. The whole place has a kind of look I associate with a breakfast TV news programme. Which may sound bizarre, but what I mean is that it has the cheerful atmosphere of a studio set, complete with bright curtains and comfy seating. Slightly unreal, as like any new building, it still has that unlived in quality.

As you might expect, all the patients are delighted. Ironically we resisted this move for so long, and now that it's happened and we can see the benefits, very few of us, if any, would now be willing to move back to dark and dingy wards in the old buildings, which we can still see out of the windows of the new hospital.

After the shift, most of the staff of the two wards went out for a drink together. Mrs. A was there, together with many of the staff I've worked with for years. I didn't stay long. I had one Guinness, then I walked home. I've got another twelve-hour shift to do tomorrow, and I didn't fancy going in with a hangover.

The G-Grade (manager) of the other ward, told me that they had deliberately made sure that the last patient to leave the building was a local man, who'd had many admissions through the years, was known and liked by many of the staff, and was suffering a genuine mental illness. The patient was pleased to play his part and get his little moment of history. Hooray!